Friday, November 25, 2016

The Kindness of Strangers

At the east end of town
At the foot of the hill
There's a chimney so tall
It says Belfast Mill.
But there's no smoke at all
Coming out of the stack
For the mill has shut down
And is never coming back. - The Fureys, Belfast Mill

Everything Entertainment Truck on West 57 Nov 10, 2016
When you fall over on the sidewalk in Manhattan, before you can even look up, you are surrounded by a protective blanket of New Yorkers.

Asking whether you need help to stand up. Whether you would like them to call a friend. Offering band--aides,  bacterial zinc sachets.

I've been falling over a lot lately and I blame Trump. Seriously. That's probably because recently  I have had occasion to be in mid-town Manhattan, within a few blocks of Trump Tower, where security men, New York cops and the Secret service are attempting to keep Melania and Baron safe (whatever happened to Tiffany?),and to keep the traffic moving.

It is a mad house. Tourists photographing protesters. Out-of-it our-of-towners - tourists from the rust belt - oblivious to the havoc they have contributed to by voting for the orange man, wondering why they can't get into Gucci to buy their annual Gucci bag.  Not realizing that our world has changed.

Trump Tower in the good old days of Obama
The day after the election I was walking west down 57 Street, just around the corner from Trump Tower. Ages ago I had arranged to go to a performance at the New York City Dance Centre with a friend. Pre-performance drinks at Circa.

Then suddenly - right on 57th, several guys in a large "Everything Entertainment"  truck were chucking large steel pipes onto the sidewalk.

I was distracted, thinking only about having our  pre-performance drink and arriving on time,  when a traffic cop came running up  telling  the truck  men  to get the hell out of there. A pipe rolled towards me and I went flying. Down but not out. I looked up.

The traffic cop, the bemused Bronx-accented pipe throwers, and half a dozen concerned New Yorkers. I lay there contemplating suing. I want a police report I told the traffic cop. She explained I needed a real cop and would have to wait.

I thought for a nanosecond. Sue or go to the New York Center Dance and  dine with my friend. No contest. I stood up, New Yorkers sanitized and bandaged my scraped hand.  I hobbled off for a pre-performance drink at Circa. A good decision.

Next week. Next fall. I was on the way to the Union Square subway. Thanksgiving Eve. Wanting to see the Therapy Wall.

Therapy Wall,  Union Square Subway,  November 2016

Dusk. Busy. Thinking about Trump and remembering Hillary.  I tripped over a hole in the curb.

Down but not out.

Injured. Frustrated.

Who are these people who voted for Trump? Believing that he would bring their jobs back? the Jobs for the people who made Polaroid cameras? For the  people who damaged their lungs  digging coal?

As Obama would say, '"C'mon man!"

Trumpworld: -

I'm too old to work
And I'm too young to die
Tell me where will I go now
My family and I? - The Fureys, Belfast Mill

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Deja Vu on the M102

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
 For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing - Bob Dylan, Chimes Of Freedom, 1964
Front Page of New York Daily News Nov 9 2016
Sitting on the M102 bus on my way to work. November 9, 2016.

Facing a row of New Yorkers like me. Commuters.

Staring straight ahead. No cell phones. No talking. Looking at nothing. Expressionless. We all knew what had happened the day before. And we all knew that we all knew. A shared feeling of shock and horror.

Where had I seen people like that before? Vacant. Gray. No words.

Then it came to me. September 12 2001. The day after our worst New York day. The day after 9 -11.

Later I read the Facebook posts and articles commenting on and analyzing how we had elected as president a man possessing no foreign policy, a bigot. A racist. A misogynist. An inarticulate man. A man who wants to build a wall. An arrogant man. Bankrupt on so many levels.  The orange man.

After work in the elevator, a neighbor - a NYU professor -  broke down and sobbed. "Some of my students were crying today," she told me. The Muslim ones and the black ones. They are scared.."

No words.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Joie de Vivre vs The Haters

Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'etendard sanglant est levé! (bis) - "La Marseillaise"
"Appreciate what is happening in this photo.

This G7 leader decided to bare his hairless chest in a salmon-pink shirt, and slip into curvy white jeans (there isn't a straight guy alive that can pull off white jeans without irony—don't even bother disagreeing with me), and shake his baby-maker under a high, July sun while being hosed down by a hundred water pistols wielded by all manner of race and colour along the straight, L, G, B, T, and Q spectrum." - Written by Theo Ward, photo by Nathan Denette:

And a few days later we have the carnage inflicted by a hater; carnage at the Promenade des Anglais at Nice. Then black men shot by cops in America. Then cops shot at Baton Rouge. Then more cops shot today at Baton Rouge.

Meanwhile in the U.S.A. Donald Trump is promoting ethnic cleansing (if stopping all Muslims from entering the US and expelling undocumented immigrants isn't ethnic cleansing , then I don't know what it is). And what about Muslims who were born here - where does he intend to export them to?

The haters. The blamers of others for their own misfortune. The xenophobes. The Australians who draped themselves in Australian flags and called Australians from Lebanon "Lebos". Who punched then in their faces.

Pauline Hanson in Australia. Another hater.

The Jew haters.

The proponents of Sharia law.

The man who honor-killed his own sister in Pakistan the other day. Qandeel Baloch whose "crime" was to aspire to being a model.

Another hater - a Facebook administrator from a rural Australian Facebook site who just last week sent me an unsolicited venomous email, complaining that I was a Hillary Clinton voter.

Compare these haters with the joie de vivre of being the Prime Minister of Canada at a LBGT parade on a sunny day in Toronto.

I don't know about you, but having sex with 26 virgins up in the sky wouldn't do it for me.

Like Charlie Hebdo, Justin Trudeau, and the diners at Nice who rushed from the restaurant on the Promenade des Anglais, to cover the bodies of the dead with table-cloths, I prefer life over death.

I want to live in a country:
  • where people cannot legally carry assault weapons on the streets of cities -
  • where children are not locked up in prisons in tropical jungles - that has a decent health system for ALL citizens
  • where the leader of a major political party does not believe in ethnic cleansing -
  • where hundreds to thousands of its people are not killed by terrorists
  • where a significant number of the population does NOT think it is an OK thing to legislate that is an OK thing for gays to be refused service in restaurants 
  • where there is no Sharia law
  • where there are night-times over 90% of the year
  • where it is not OK for right-wing political leaders to call on the voters to "Ditch the Bitch" when for once in its history the PM is a woman
Guess that leaves New Zealand ...

Vive la France!
Vive Charlie Hebdo!
Vive la champagne!

Vive la vie!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Beyond the Winter of our Discontent

I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them - from Richard III, Shakespeare

I usually start my post with a few lines from a song. But this is June 2016, and no time for singing - the above lines from "Richard III" seem more apt in this glorious summer of 2016.

I have lived through four elections in New York - two of which were won by George W. But I have never felt the fear that accompanies this one.

Sunday morning in the nail salon - a weekly ritual that I indulge myself in. Sitting at the nail-dryer. A woman in her early thirties -  a nail-dryer neighbor who I have never seen before - speaks to me. "I love your tee-shirt," pointing to the back which reads
Human Rights are Women's Rights!
Hillary Rodham Clinton
For President! 2016

"My grandparents were Irish", she goes on to explain. Adding that she can leave this country anytime she wants - taking her husband and baby to anywhere in Europe. Nothing new - heaps of us have been working out our exit strategy.

So many people making jokes - about Canada needing a wall to keep out the kale-eaters. The emergence of "Maple Match", the website for Americans seeking Canadian spouses so they can emigrate in November if necessary. Trump suing comedian Bill Maher for $5 million for his orangutan sex joke - though that was no joke.

She goes on to express her fear, a fear that had not crossed my mind anytime in my 20 years of living in America. But it crosses my mind now!

Until today I had worried of course that Trump could win the Presidency. But my fear had been mainly focused on the man and the damage done.

My nail-salon neighbor enlightens me.

Win or lose - she is getting the hell out of Dodge! "I never know when I might be sitting next to one of them." And (in a whisper), "A Trump supporter."

We are living in a county where eleven million people voted for the man. And then there are the Sanders supporters. Twenty percent have said they will vote for Trump. Which makes one wonder why they supported Sanders in the first place.

So counting the Sanders fanatics and the number of "documented" adults living in America, that means there is a 10% chance that the person sitting next to me on the subway is a Trump supporter.

Scene from "On the Beach", State Library, Melbourne
Of course it isn't true of people in New York. We are different here. Surely.

"There Is Still Time ... Brother", the sign reads outside Melbourne's State Library in Stanley Kramer’s haunting post-apocalyptic movie "On The Beach" - as radiation gradually descends southward from the northern hemisphere, wiping out all mankind.

Still, I am given new courage as I walk back home to my apartment. All around me are African Americans, Africans, and Hispanics. Many of them notice my tee-shirt and give me the thumbs up. There is still time, sister!

I started with the words of the Bard. But to be really gloomy, I will end with the words of the songwriter Dory Previn.

I've seen him in the headlines
And on the evening news
I saw him on the sideline
When stones were thrown at Jews

And marching in Montgomery
Pretending that he cared
I saw him wink as though
Some old conspiracy were shared

He was in the crowd in Dallas
At the close of Camelot
I spotted him on campus
When the students had been shot

In an oriental village
With civilians left to rot
He was hanging out with soldiers
Trading heroin for pot and he was
Smiling, smiling - Doppelgänger